Most of my absolute favorite trips have been in late March/early April. I always forget this but each year Facebook’s “On This Day” function reminds me, when all my memories from those couple of weeks include amazing vacation photos one after the other from some of my favorite destinations.
Some of them have been for actual spring breaks– since I’ve spent most of my life as either a student or a teacher– and a couple of times it’s just been a coincidence that it’s lined up during those weeks, usually because I was able to find cheap plane tickets somewhere or had some other sort of compelling reason to travel. It’s always during the time of year when the weather is just starting to warm up, but you never know if you’re going to get sunshine and flowers or days of nonstop rain, or both in one trip.
Here’s a look back at my last decade of spring break trips.
In spring of 2009, I had been working at a financial firm for about two years when it was bought out and my office was closed (the company had another, bigger office in a different state and everything was consolidated there). I had recently been accepted to grad school and had already planned my exit, and was actually pretty thrilled that I got a decent severance pay from being laid off rather than just quitting. When I found a very cheap flight to Venice (cheaper than what I normally paid to fly from Boston to Virginia to visit my family), I took it and went for a week, staying at a hostel and wandering the city by myself. This was one of the trips where I had gorgeous, sunny spring weather for the first half and then torrential rains for the second half, resulting in the city flooding, which was an adventure in itself. It was the first time I traveled solo internationally and one of the best decisions I ever made. Venice remains one of my favorite cities in the world; I’ve been back once since and will go back any chance I get.
2010: Charleston, South Carolina
This was during my first year of grad school. My budget was rather, uh, tight at the moment, but I wanted to get away for a few days and clear my head, so I drove the five hours to Charleston and stayed in a hostel there. (Travel doesn’t have to be expensive!) I really didn’t do much other than hang out, walk around, read in the hammock on the hostel’s balcony, and met up with an old friend from college once or twice who happened to live in the area. It was so relaxing. I’ve been to Charleston three times and it’s a beautiful city with some gorgeous architecture.
2011-2014: No spring break trips!
I was defending my graduate thesis and working on exams at the time in 2011, and then I started teaching and spent those weeks off in the following years visiting my family in my hometown. Sometimes you just need to go home and lay on your parents’ couch for a while to recuperate… or maybe that’s only for those of us who work with teenagers.
By this point I was living in Turkey and a couple of my friends from college got in touch to say they were going on a ten-day tour of Greece, did I want to meet up with them while they were there? The answer was YES. So at the end of their trip, we met up for a long weekend in Santorini, which is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Istanbul. I absolutely LOVE the Aegean coast/islands (we go to them each summer in Turkey) and Santorini did not disappoint. It was a few days of gorgeous sunny weather, lovely views, great food, and fun hanging out with old friends. (Again, to reiterate my point that travel does not have to be expensive, my hotel room in downtown Fira was only $30/night. It didn’t have a sea view but it was big, clean, and up-to-date.)
We did a lot of international travel in 2015/2016, so for spring break, we stayed close to home and hung out in Istanbul and its surrounding locales. Sometimes it’s fun to play tourist in your own city– you make time for all the relaxing and cool cultural stuff that you never do because you’re too busy working and doing mundane things like grocery shopping. We went to some museums, visited the tulips at Goztepe Park, and did day trips to the Black Sea, Polonezkoy (nearby Polish village), and the Adalar (the Princes Islands in the Sea of Marmara).
Last year we did a road trip from Istanbul to check out part of the Turkish coast we’d never been to before. Our first stop was Çanakkale, a seaport city on the Dardenelles Strait which was the site of a major WWI battle at Gallipoli (Russell Crowe made a movie that takes place there a few years ago called The Water Diviner), and also home to the ancient city of Troy just outside the city limits, so most of our time there was visiting historical sites. From there, we spent a couple of days on Bozcaada Island (Tenedos in Greek) in the Aegean Sea, where we visited castles and took advantage of the local wineries. Afterwards we drove to the Assos ruins, where Alexander the Great and Aristotle used to hang out, and did some exploring there. I’ve always said– and still say– that the Turkish coast is the most underrated vacation destination in the world.
Now that we’re living in Germany, a whole new region of easy travel has opened up to us. At eight months pregnant, aka my due date just around the corner, this year we decided to road trip down to the coast of France for a babymoon, stopping in northern Italy on the way to break up the drive. Italy is one of my favorite countries to visit and I’ve been multiple times, but it was only my second time in France, and the weather was beautiful. It turns out that Easter/spring break traffic in Europe is no joke so the drive took a lot longer than we anticipated, but it was nice to get away for one last trip, just the two of us, before the baby arrives. It was especially nice to get some sunshine after a very long, dreary fall and winter in Istanbul and Germany.
Next year will obviously be different, when we’re a family of three, so who knows what we’ll end up doing– but whatever it is, it will probably be an adventure.